Loosing My Religion

Through The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer exposed his distrust in the organized religion of the middle ages. He believed that a true, humble faith was far more important than the illusion of religious service. He respected the high ranking church officials, who did nothing more than mechanical reproductions of archaic ceremonies, about as much as pagan infidels. To show his abhorrence toward organized religion, he created pseudo-christians, such as the pardoner and friar, along with one sterling example of a true religious zealot, the parson.

Chaucer has absolutely no respect for the Pardoner's character. He noted the pardoner had the "same small voice a goat has got" and a "chin no beard had harboured, nor would harbour". However, Chaucer did not perform a one-sided attack on the pardoner's masculinity. He also used his ignominious character to paint a bleak picture of the church. The pardoner "made monkeys of the priest and congregation" when he sauntered in through the town. The willingness of the churchgoers to accept this treatment indicated they lacked true faith in their deity, and instead were peons ready to cling to anyone claiming divine authority. The pardoner could, in one day draw more money than the parson could "in a month or two." How did he do it? Not by powers from heaven, but instead with his "honey-tongue". He also is referred to as "a noble ecclesiast" to the church. Instead of condemning this thief, the church praises him. Chaucer subtly says that any church willing to hold insolent embezzlers in a high position was obviously not in touch with its deity.

The friar characterized the degradation of the medieval church. He had used the church as launching pad for his pursuit of carnal pleasures. To pay for his escapades, he gathered money in the name of the church. He was no slouch, in fact, "he was the finest beggar of his batch." He also gathered money when he would "arbitrate disputes... (for no small fee)." What did he do with all this money gathered in the name of the church? It was not used to help the poor. Instead he flaunted it on the town. He was no stranger to the bars, for "he knew the taverns well in every town." That was just the beginning. He also knew "every innkeeper and barmaid... better than lepers, beggars and that crew." He ignored the people that needed his help, and instead focused on himself. He was the epitome of the pseudo-Christianity that Chaucer so abhorred.

The parson was the one church figure that the Chaucer genuinely trusted. He was trusted because of his loyalty to the people instead of the Catholic bureaucracy. "He hated cursing to exhort a fee." Instead, he "preferred beyond a doubt giving to poor parishioners... both from church offerings and his property." Unlike the other religious figures, the parson was loyal to the scriptures and his people, not the central church or wallet. He did not "leave his sheep encumbered in the mire or run to London for easy bread." Instead, he cared for his own flock. He also followed his own teachings; "He taught but followed it himself before." This dedication to serving represented the true essence of religion.

By employing a sophisticated sarcastic tone, Chaucer attacks the medieval church that gave legitimacy to such crooks as the pardoner and friar. His faith in the organized church was fast fading, and he was slowly loosing his religion. However, his faith in the scriptures still was strong. He was a protestant on earth just a little too early.